“Sharing tea with a fascinating stranger is one of life’s true delights.”
A legend says that a Qing dynasty Chinese writer Pu Songling once opened a tea house where he offered tea to strangers and passers by, but never asked them to pay for it. Instead, his guests were asked to share a fairy tale they heard during their journeys, or an interesting story from their life. Inspired by these narratives, he wrote many short stories that later became popular throughout China. Thrilled by this legend, we came up with the idea of the “Tea with Strangers” project.
The idea was simple. We take our tea sets, go sit in public places (parks, squares, streets, etc.), prepare tea according to Chinese traditions, and invite complete strangers to join us for a cup of tea! We introduce the tea, ourselves, they introduce themselves. And like Pu Songling, we offer them Chinese tea free of charge, asking to share an interesting story instead. They share their stories, we share ours. People leave, and we’ll probably never see them again as they continue their path. We stay and greet new strangers. Same-same, but different. Different stories, different lives.
The stories and the photographs that we collect during our tea ceremonies, are later published on our website and Facebook page, so that others can follow the stories of strangers we meet and share tea with.
The project was started in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia. But we knew from the beginning that traveling is going to be a big part of it and that it will also change the way we travel. As of today, we’ve visited the cities of Gyumri and Etchmiadzin in Armenia, and Isfahan, Iran.
During our 40-day hitchhiking journey through Iran we’ve met many kind people, each an interesting book of stories on his own. We realized that we must also write about people we cross paths with when traveling. And while on the Road, our project changed and evolved, eventually combining the three things we are passionate about: the Road, the Strangers, the Tea.
“Tea with Strangers” was launched on March 21, 2015 with the initial funding from the Awesome Foundation Yerevan Chapter. In September 2016, we’ve launched a fundraising campaign to realize some new ideas we came up with. And although we didn’t reach the campaign goal, still we raised enough to implement a few of our ideas. We want to take this opportunity to express our gratitude to people who contributed to the “Tea with Strangers” project:
Arsen Aramyan (Armenia); Samvel Martirosyan (Armenia); Gohar Khachatryan (Armenia); Lilit Kocharyan (Germany); Ruzanna Baghdasaryan (Armenia); Iris Gruhl (USA); Armine Khamoyan (Armenia); Carol Mann (Germany); Alice Metchikian (USA); Aram Petrosyan (Armenia); Carol Mark (Canada); Jonathan Hratch Parigian Blankenberg (USA).
Arty & Nane
Tea with Strangers
MEDIA ABOUT US:
News.am: Are people of Yerevan ready to share tea with strangers? (in Armenian)
Mynews.am: Would you like a cup of tea? (in Armenian)
Yerevan Magazine: One cup, one story (in Armenian; p. 44-45)